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Coca Cola League Two
By Iain Dalziel at the Sixfields Stadium
Barnet made it a two game unbeaten start, courtesy of a fantastic, last gasp 2-1 win at League 2 title favourites, Northampton Town.
The Bees went into the game as the under dogs, despite the fact that Northampton were without the two main strikers. One being Northern Ireland international Andy Kirk, a £100,000 signing from Boston United last year and the other absentee, Scott McGleish, a former fans favourite at Barnet. Both players missed out due to injury, yet with well respected forwards Sabin and Dudfield replacing them it showed the quality which Northampton Town posses.
The Barnet side for the night was exactly the same as it had been the previous Saturday for Bristol Rovers visit to Underhill. A 4-5-1 formation, the squad right down to the five subs was the exact same.
On a pleasant summer's evening at the Sixfields, the game began at a frantic pace. Both teams looked keen to make their mark early on and in the opening couple of minutes each side looked willing to play good, attacking football.
The first chance of the night fell to Northampton's Pedj Bojic. The player who'd hit the Cobblers goal at Lincoln on Saturday got given a close range opportunity in the area after receiving the ball from a long throw. However, Yakubu managed to get in the way of his effort and Northampton won a corner. After a fairly even first five minutes Northampton began to settle down and look dangerous going forward. Unsurprisingly it was the Cobblers who had the first clear cut chance of the match, when Lawrie Dudfield was put through one on one with Tynan in the ninth minute.
The move had all come from Jason Crowe dispossessing Ben Strevens, deep in the Northampton half. From this they had strung together a few quick passes, the final one being from Low, feeding the ball into Dudfield. However, despite keeping a seemingly cool head the striker, in his second spell at Northampton, fired just wide. An early let off for the Bees. Yet this was just a warning of what was to come. Veteran midfielder Ian Taylor forced a tremendous save out f Scott Tynan with a close-range header from a corner. Despite the headed effort being parried by Tynan the ball fell to the dangerous looking Sabin, however his shot was well blocked by Dwane Lee, the ball going round the post for another corner.
On twenty seven minutes, under great pressure already, Barnet were given another problem. Yakubu sustained a groin injury when involved in a tussle on a corner and played no further part after hobbling off. This meant a debut for Adam Gross, the recent signing from Charlton. Gross slotted in at left back, with Anthony Charles moving across to play alongside King in the centre.
Yet just moments after moving into his preferred position in the centre of defence, Charles gave away a costly free-kick. In a race for the ball with Eric Sabin, Charles clearly barged the Cobblers striker out of the way, just on the edge of the area, on the left side of the penalty area. From the resulting free kick Dudfield met an inch perfect ball by Hunt to head home his first goal since his return to the club this summer, putting Northampton deservedly ahead.
The goal however didn't seem to give Barnet the wake-up call they needed, just five minutes later, Barnet and Scott Tynan in particular, were very fortunate not to concede again. The influential former Aston Villa man Ian Taylor struck a powerful shot toward Tynan's right hand side. Taylor's effort was just off the mark, striking the post, yet the ball cannoned off the post and into the back of Tynan's neck. Fortunately for the Liverpudlian 'keeper it went the other side of the post to the goal. In the end he even reacted quick enough to prevent the corner.
Barnet finally created a chance of their own, right at the end of a Northampton dominated first period. An excellent cross by Graham from the left wing was perfect for Grazioli to get a header in. Though last season's top scorer connected with the ball the final effort went straight into the arms of Lee Harper in the Cobblers goal.
The half time whistle blew shortly afterwards, Barnet a goal behind, though were it not for some good goalkeeping, defending and partly luck they could well have been more than just a single goal separating Colin Calderwood and Paul Fairclough's sides.
The early stages of the second half were very similar to most of the first, Northampton looking the more dangerous side. Both Sabin and Bojic had efforts for Town, but both went over the crossbar. To the surprise of some people Paul Fairclough had decided to make no changes and continue operating in the 4-5-1 formation.
Barnet had slowly started to show signs that they were starting to look a bit more settled and maybe willing to attack the Northampton penalty area, but in the same way as against Bristol on Saturday, the opposition defence were proving very stubborn and hard to break down. However, with ten minutes gone in the second half, Barnet were looking a lot more relaxed and dangerous going forward.
A high clearance was brought down under control by Richie Graham, twenty five yards from the Cobblers goal. Looking up, Graham knocked the ball over to Grazioli to chase onto. However, Grazioli received the ball in a position too wide for the shot and under pressure from two defenders. However, he controlled it well and despite almost losing his balance managed to turn his marker, look up and square it across the box. To the delight of the Bees the pass was met by Dean Sinclair who had made a charging run into the area. Cooly he poked it under Lee Harper to make the scores level. Apart from Grazioli's first half header this was Barnet's first clear-cut opening of the night and Sinclair had taken full advantage.
Fairclough's players now looked full of confidence and more like the side that strolled the Nationwide Conference last season. Barnet were really getting into their stride, however, just four minutes after equalising a potential disaster occurred. A floodlight failure.
Third Half ;-)
The travelling contingent instantly began singing accusations of a sabotage, seeing as Barnet had just started to get going. However, it turned out a power cut in the Hunsbury area of Northampton had led to a power surge at the stadium. However, the staff at the ground reacted very well and whilst for a long while after the failure at the Sixfields much of Northampton was in darkness within twenty minutes all the lights were back on. However, as soon as the just a few of the lights were back Paul Fairclough got his players back out on the pitch training, even bringing training cones out, later saying he needed to get the players back to the right "body temperature".
So after a thirty minute interval, the players being giving ten minutes to warm up once power had been restored, the game restarted. It was unclear how this long stoppage would affect Barnet. The Bees had started to really look sharp just before the power failure, but the break gave the Cobblers the chance to re-group.
However, Barnet carried on as if they'd never stopped. The extra-long warm up during the break had them still fresh and looking more dangerous than the home side. Northampton's penalty area was now under a lot more pressure than at any other time and Barnet had the confidence to try their luck. Following a clearance Harper was off his line, so Welsh youth international left back Adam Gross tried an audacious long range lob. However, he miss hit totally, slicing the ball well over. Yet this showed Barnet were willing to have a go.
Dwane Lee almost scored a most bizarre goal shortly after Gross' effort. A sublime cross-field pass by Bailey was met by Lee just inside the area, but wide of the goal. The central midfielder volleyed the ball across the box, with everyone leaving it, it almost crept in.
Barnet were playing with real determination now, too much from Grazioli in Premier League referee Barry Knight's book, quite literally as the Barnet forward picked up the Bees first booking of the season after going in too hard on Chambers.
A minute later and scorer of the first goal Dean Sinclair, very nearly made it two. The nineteen year old made one of his trademark surging runs forward. The Cobblers defenders continued to allow him space, and though Grazioli was screaming for it to his left Sinclair decided to have a go himself, unleashing a powerful, rising shot from twenty five yards. However his fine effort was equally matched, Harper tipping the ball over for a corner. A few minutes later Sinclair tried his luck again, on the edge of the box he turned and volleyed goal wards, though this time his attempt was feeble and Harper gladly gathered an easy shot.
Barnet were firmly in command in the final stages, playing some fantastic football and looking dangerous every time they burst forward from midfield. Sinclair, Graham and Bailey all looked like they could steal a late winner and the latter did just that.
Nicky Bailey received the ball inside the Northampton half, in good space. As he and the rest of the midfield had done on many occasions in the second half he charged towards the penalty area. Yet this time he did not stop and look for the pass. It was clear he was brimming with confidence and he showed this as he skipped past three challenges and held off another defender. It was a scintillating run, however it looked as though he was going to be forced too wide to shoot. Unfortunately for Northampton Town this wasn't the case. A sweetly struck shot with his left foot went right across the goal, trickling into Lee Harper's bottom left hand corner, sending un-fancied Barnet into a 2-1 lead with two minutes to go.
The travelling support behind the goal went into raptures of celebration, but there was still two minutes of normal time, along with an additional two for stoppage. Both Hatch and Norville came on to help out in the dying stages, Grazioli and Graham departing. Despite Northampton managing to get forward a solid Barnet defence weathered the storm and held out for a very much un-expected away win.
Though this is very early days in the season this will no doubt do wonders for the confidence of a young Barnet side. Though they had a very poor first half the second half display showed that this exciting Barnet side have the potential to do extremely well again this season. The big spending Cobblers are strongly fancied to gain automatic promotion this year, many tipping them to be champions come May, but after that performance, who can write off successive promotion's for Paul Fairclough's Barnet?
Iain Dalziel's Barnet Man of the Match
Dean Sinclair, At times he looked on another level to the other twenty one players on the pitch. Some of his forward runs were outstanding and Northampton found him very hard to contain. However, in the second half every Barnet player should be commended, an excellent team effort in the final half an hour especially.
Barnet Team ratings: Tynan (8), Hendon (7), Yakubu (6) (Gross)(7), King (8), Charles (8), Strevens (8), Lee (7), Sinclair (9), Bailey (8), Graham (8) (Norville) (6), Grazioli (7) (Hatch) (6)
Iain Dalziel's Northampton Town Man of the Match
Eric Sabin, though Sabin didn't get on the score sheet he looked very dangerous and was lively throughout. His pace on the break, in the first half in particular, may well have punished Barnet more on another day.
Quotes from the Manager
"I love half-times. Half-times give you opportunities to readjust and re-establish things, and there were two of them. Northampton were fantastic in the first half and we were fortunate to be only one down.
"But we showed tremendous character. We sensed they were becoming concerned and took advantage of that."
Ref: B Knight (Kent)
Tynan, Hendon, King, Yakubu (Gross 27), Charles, Bailey, Sinclair, Strevens, Lee, Graham (Norville 90), Grazioli (Hatch 90)
Subs Not Used: Flitney, Soares
Harper, Bojic, Chambers, Dyche, Crowe, Low (Brett Johnson 81), Taylor, Hunt, Dudfield, Sabin, Jess (Galbraith 87)
Subs Not Used: Bunn, Bradley Johnson, Cross
Other League Two Scores
Bristol Rovers 1 - 2
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